Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi, and Gianluigi Buffon, these are World Class Football players who seems to have been around like forever.
Buffon and Ibrahimovic started his career in the late 90s while Ronaldo is 36 and Messi also on the wrong side of 30.
It’s interesting how these players don’t play or perform like they are close to retirement, instead they dish out performances that players in their 20s can only be envious of week in week out; unless you are an Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar or a Bruno Fernandes.
Ronaldo just broke Pele’s goals record weeks ago, Ibrahimovic is leading AC Milan’s title challenge and among the top scorers in the Serie A at age 38 while Buffon is not out of place at Juve and Messi is still being Messi at Barcelona.
They are not our focus however, as we will be reflecting on some lost talents who are regarded as world class but are long forgotten or say their potentials never blossomed despite having age on their side.
These players ought to be in their prime or reaching a fruitful end to their careers at a top clubside but are instead struggling to keep playing and are already looking like they played over 2 decades ago.
Some are not as old as Ibrahimovic, Buffon, Ronaldo or even Messi but we are asking, what happened to the following players?
World Class Football Players Who Failed To Remain World Class For Long
Current club: Montreal Impact
Borjan was so promising in his teenage years that he made the first-team debut at the age of 17 years and 19 days, breaking the record of Lionel Messi.
He scored 12 goals in 48 matches in his first season at the club.
However, he did not do enough to remain Barcelona’s first choice striker having spent just 4 years at the Camp Nou with 41 goals in 162 games.
Borjan’s issues were not entirely clear but based on assessment, he couldn’t meet up with the standards of La Liga Champions, despite been regarded as a world class player.
He played in the Premier League at a lower level with Stoke City between 2014 and 2019, he moved to Montreal Impact after loan deals at Alaves and Mainz.
Nationality : Mexico
Current club: Los Angeles Fc
Here is a player who wasn’t really hampered by injuries but still didn’t do enough to meet up, Vela popped up at Arsenal in 2005 and many Gunners fan waited and hoped for the Mexican who arrived from Guadalajara to explode with his quality.
Between 2005 and 2012, Gunners faithful only saw him play 29 times with paltry 3 goals with loads of loan moves across Europe.
He played at Salamanca, Celta, Osasuna and West Bromwich Albion on loan but it was Real Sociedad he had his best stint on loan before joining them on a permanent deal.
In over 200 appearances for Sociedad, Vela scored 66 goals for the La Liga club. However, Vela had the combination of Injuries and controversies hampering him.
His time line of issues with the Mexican national team is well documented alongside fellow Mexican Giovanni Dos Santos who was with Barcelona at some point.
Nationality : Brazil
Current club: Shanghai SIPG
Away from Italian connection to Brazilians, who can easily be found anywhere the round leather game is played.
Oscar started as a youngster, the first player ever to score a Hattrick in the FIFA U20 World Cup final in 2011.
He then moved straight from Internacional in Brazil to Chelsea in England where he won the Premier League twice in 2014 and 2017, and the UEFA Europa League in 2013.
However, Oscar didn’t just decline like the first two individuals. The lure and temptation of money was too hard to ignore.
China came calling and Oscar couldn’t resist, he moved to Shanghai in his prime and he got the cheque but paid with his prominence and popularity.
Current club: PSV
From a Premier League winner to a World Cup winner, early success doesn’t guarantee longevity.
Mario Gotze won the World Cup with Germany in 2014 scoring the winning goal. He also won trophies with Bayern Munich and Dortmund including the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal.
With the national team of Germany, he won two UEFA Euros bronze medals in 2012 and 2016 apart from the World Cup winners medal.
What then went wrong with Gotze, who at 28 years should be leading the pack of Bayern and the German national, but instead is in the Dutch Eredivisie with PSV trying to get his mojo back.
Injuries and more injuries laid Gotze down, affect his fitness and subsequently his abilities. Maybe he can still bounce back, just maybe.
Nationality : Italian
Current club: Monza
Mario “Bad Boy” Balotelli is loaded with skills, strength and goals scoring instincts. He was magical for the Italian national team and Manchester City.
He was also clinical in Milan for both AC and Inter albeit all of them were unfortunately short termed. Balotelli was a trouble maker, he lacked discipline and was erratic both on and off the pitch.
Balo regarded as a world class player was also a journey man but trouble and controversies followed him every where he went, his story is for another time.
Roberto Mancini called him “Crazy”, Jose Mourinho labeled him “Unmanageable”, if these aren’t enough pointer to his problems, then you can also point to racism which he suffered frequently especially with the national.
Current club: Bournemouth
You can’t omit the English men from this kind of list, they have the largest pool of unrealized potentials in the world in terms of football talents.
Representing a lot of ‘next Pirlo’, ‘next Xavis, ‘next Iniestas’ and ‘next Gerrard’ is Jack Wilshere.
Now sarcasm aside, Wilshere was fantastic and destined for greatness at the Emirates stadium with the Gunners until Injury happened.
Let’s just say Wilshere was consistent with his injury than he was with his performances at some point.
Since leaving Arsenal, he has played for West Ham and he is now at the Vitality stadium with Bournemouth, hopefully he is revitalized.
Alexander Song Billong was on song in the midfield of Arsenal, orchestrating the Wenger style of play for a long time.
He also formed a sweet partnership with Robin Van Persie before the Dutchman moved to Manchester United.
The Cameroonian was at a point a big fish in a small pond, and seeing fellow teammates leaving for other teams in search of trophies, Song hopped on the Barcelona train.
What happened after was uninspiring, the water was too deep, the sea was too big and Song immediately became a small fish in a big sea.
He failed to meet the standards of the Blaugrana and had few chances to redeem himself. Sadly at the ripe age of 33, the Cameroonian now plays in Djibouti with Arta/Solar 7 after stints with West Ham and Rubin Kazan.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Nationality : Italy
Current club: Roma
Another World Class player who Milan fans thought would lead their frontline, but unfortunately he couldn’t stay consistent enough.
Having started his career with Genoa before moving to AC Milan in 2011, he had 86 appearance for Milan with 21 goals in 5 years there.
He also had loan moves to AS Monaco and Roma before his move to Roma was made permanent in 2016.
Then he had a stint in China with Shanghai Shenhua in 2019 before a return to Roma on a free in January.
Injury has been El Shaarawy’s major problem and it has hindered him from meeting up with comparisons made about him Neymar and Messi.
Nationality : Brazil
Current club: Santos.
You can argue that Robihno has the skills and quality that is synonymous with every Brazilian but what u can’t argue is that he faded so soon and failed to reach his full potentials.
At age 37, not much is really expected from him again but a lot was initially expected of a player of his caliber.
Robinho arrived Europe from Santos to Real Madrid in 2005 spending three years at the Bernabeau before a big money move to Manchester City in England.
He was part of the first set of world class players to arrive at the Etihad stadium when the Arab big Boys took over at Manchester City.
However, while many thought he would be one of clubs first true legends, he is only remembered as one of the statement signings that failed to make a big statement.
His major problem was injury, playing less than 50 games in 2 years at City having moved down the pecking order as more big signings arrived at City.
He also played AC Milan, Santos, Guangzhou Evergrande, Sivasspor and Instabul Basaksehir but he didn’t perform as expected of an heir to the great Pele.
The Brazilian legend being an admirer of Robinho and declaring him is heir, Robinho played at two World Cups but he didn’t win any.
Nationality : Brazilian
Current club: Orlando City.
Isn’t it surprising to find out that Alex Pato is just 31 but he seemed to have gone under the radar 2017 when he left Villarreal, he team he joined from Chelsea in 2016.
Pato’s goal scoring profile is well documented from his 51 goals in 117 performances for AC Milan between 2007 and 2013.
Even more documented is injury woes that marred a world class striker that could have played in the best of teams in the World. He is currently active with Orlando City in the US.
Current club: Trabzonspor.
Two UEFA Champions League medals, One Premier League title but a lot of days on the Doctor’s table didn’t help Sturridge.
Yes he played at Manchester City, Chelsea and had the best period of his career at Liverpool but when you remember that Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy is 34 and still waxing strong, you can only wonder what could have been with a stronger and injury free Daniel Sturbridge.
Nationality : Polish
Current club: Hertha Berlin
Piatek was the name before Erling Haaland started scoring, the Polish striker rose to prominence with Genoa in 2018 with his goal scoring prowess.
He had announced his presence with a 19 minute Hattrick against Lecce in the Coppa Italia. His league debut was no different becoming the first player since Andriy Shevchenko in 1999 to score five goals in his first four Serie A appearances.
With 13 goals in 19 appearances for Genoa, he moved to AC Milan in 2019 spending just a year with 13 goals in 36 games at the San Siro before moving to Germany with Hertha Berlin.
While he is still relatively young and regarded as a world class player, he has not moved in the direction expected of someone once compared with star compatriot Robert Lewandowski.